January 27th is commemorated as ‘International Holocaust Remembrance Day’ every year for almost than a decade. As we get ready to commemorate the day this year, we decided to retell the pogroms of Kristallnacht in Nazi Germany, and the genocide of 1971 in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), with a panel discussion. It was a lively discussion on genocide and mass atrocity prevention in the 21st century, through activism, education, and outreach. The two events happened 33 years apart. But there are chilling similarities between the two events. Both represent organized attack on a religious community, based on deep seated theological and doctrinal “othering”. Both events triggered organized state sponsored mass killings, that led to the deaths of millions of people.
On November 9 to November 10, 1938, in an incident known as Kristallnacht, Nazis in Germany torched synagogues, vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses and killed close to 100 Jews. In the aftermath, some 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to Nazi concentration camps.
On March 25, 1971 the Pakistani Army descended on Jagannath Hall, a Hindu minority student dormitory at the Dhaka University in what was then East Pakistan. Students and professors were rounded up and shot at point blank range, causing more than 300 deaths. Named ‘Operation Searchlight’, the massacre triggered a chain of events that led to the murder of 3 million Bengalis, mostly Hindus.
The UN General Assembly resolution 260 A (III) of 9 December 1948 Article II, describes genocide as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. Those acts are:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about
its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
The resolution stemmed from the
In 1971, the 3 million unarmed people that the Pakistani army and their Bangladeshi collaborators; Muslim League, Jamaat-e-Islami and their other Islamist allies, included progressive Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, and animists;however, the Hindus were specifically targeted for extermination. Thus, while the killings of the progressive Muslims, Buddhist & Christians may be labeled as a politically motivated retaliatory acts, the act of mass killings of the Hindus is a clear case of genocide. As was reported by famous journalists, homes owned by the Hindus were marked H in yellow. The perpetrators of the genocide were from both West Pakistan and East Pakistan, that is today’s Bangladesh. Due to lack of time, the Pakistani army has to leave the region, thanks to India, keeping Hindu extermination process incomplete. But that did not stop the process – the Bangladeshis Islamist perpetrators remain on the ground and has conducted the same campaign only at a slower pace and have thus eliminated several millions more through violence, and it has been projected by researchers that in another 25 years no Hindus will be left in Bangladesh, that is the remaining twenty million will be eliminated.
While the Armenian genocide, Cambodian Genocide, Rwandan Genocide are well known the East Pakistan Genocide remains relatively unknown to the world.
The objective of this event was to
i. Apprise the world of this genocide
ii. Get Pakistan’s role in the genocide recognized by the US Congress, European Union, the United Nations, and other countries of the world.
iii. Bring the perpetrators of the genocide under justice, i.e, get them prosecuted, punished and force them to pay compensation to the victims and their heirs.
It is our hope that this will on the one hand bring a closure to this horrifying memory, and , on other prevent future genocide.
You can see the full event here
DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.